Maple Ridge Baptist Church is one of the first buildings to catch a passer-by’s eye as they enter the city via the Lougheed Highway.
As proud as the congregation is of their community, the building has become an eyesore, which they feel does not represent them as well as it might.
Lead pastor, Jonathan Neufeld, pointed out it was originally built in the 1980s when stucco walls and no roof overhangs were the style.
“Now it’s well worn on the outside, and in some places it’s leaking,” he said.
“It’s looking old and aged in a city that’s kind of renewing itself.”
While the church may be over a century old – it celebrated it’s 100th birthday in 2012 – it would still like to be seen as vibrant.
“It’s growing, not dying,” Neufeld insisted. “So part of growing is taking care of the place.”
A little over three years ago, the church’s congregation decided to start the process of fixing the building.
They plan to replace the entire exterior with new siding and extend the walls at the roof line to deal with rain fall and drainage better than the current structure does.
One of the major challenges was amassing the necessary funds. With a budget of $1.3 million, the project is not cheap.
“The congregation has really dug in and been really faithful,” Neufeld said. “We’ve been really encouraged as everybody has gotten on board to help.
“We had no outside source of funding, so everything comes from within.”
The lead pastor said the church has been blessed with some members who have some valuable knowledge when it comes to these sorts of projects.
Jim Frew is one such member who serves on the building committee.
He said they received a building permit from the city in May, which was great timing for them.
“It worked out well, as it got us into the season where construction is easier to do, so it’s been going along well.”
Frew said they have just begun demolition this week, so they are in the process of taking off all the stucco around the church.
“We’ll work it in phases because the building needs to stay useful during the construction process.” he said. “Although we’re still limited by COVID, we still need to get people in-and-out and have as much activity here as is safe to do.”
Once the stucco is removed, workers will be put on moisture protection and then the new siding. Frew mentioned he is keeping his finger crossed the project can stay on schedule to avoid bad weather.
“We’re really hoping that the bulk of this work can take place during the dry weather, and then we can concentrate on the smaller finishing things that will take longer.”
Altogether he sees it as a six month process but says people should see some changes to the building soon.
He is counting on those changes being very positive.
“With the widening and the construction on the Lougheed Highway, a lot of the trees have come down,” Frew said. “We’ve become that much more visible, so it’s become that much more important that [the building] presents well.”
The lead pastor agreed, noting the importance the church plays in the Maple Ridge community.
“This building has seen funerals for everyone from firemen to city officials,” he said, “If ever there’s a tragic event, people come to mourn here.
“And when there’s a city-wide conversation, often times they’ve used the building too.”
Neufeld said in a perfect world the COVID-19 crisis would come to an end right before the church construction is completed.
“The dream would be that COVID is done and we could open fresh building and have a fresh start post-COVID but of course, we need to make sure we follow the precautions.”